Lies we tell ourselves

Weak. A burden. Selfish. Irresponsible. A failure. Alone. Worthless. Crazy.

My brain tells me I am these things nearly every day. This is just one of the manifestations of my anxiety and my depression. Whenever I express them out loud, my friends will try to help by responding, “your brain is stupid.” I am generally well aware of this. My self-awareness is quite intact. And yet, why is it so difficult to break through those lies, even when I know the truths that exist?

When most people think these things they are able to think them and then brush them off. They can feel the negative emotions that come with them, but are able to see the truth instead of those lies and accept them for the lies they are and move on.

Most people can simply continue on with their lives.

But me? The lies I tell myself swarm me. They infest me. I get so trapped in those lies that, even when I am told they are lies and even if I KNOW they are lies, I cannot let them go.

I ask myself, “Why can’t I just be normal? Why do I require extra care just to be around? Why am I so broken? Why can’t I see myself the way others see me? Why can others see me as accomplished or worthwhile, but I still believe the lies?”

“Should” is a four-letter word

You should be more like this other person.

You should do this.

You should do that.

You should try harder.

You shouldn’t take things so personally.

“Should statements” are the most common type of maladaptive thoughts that I get stuck in. They spin round and round in my mind until I can’t see what might exist outside of them.

It’s like being on a hamster wheel I can’t escape: I should be able to handle my depression and anxiety like everyone else can. I should be able to do all the things on my own. I should not let my problems become other people’s problems. I should not do things others don’t approve of. I should not rock the boat. I should have done more with my life. I should be more like other people. I should value what others value. I should behave like everyone else does.

Our whole lives we are told to compare ourselves to the expectations set by other people. We want to be liked. We want to be respected. We want to fit in. And the people around us, society as a whole, tell us exactly what we should do in order to accomplish those things. So why shouldn’t we try to live up to those expectations?

I start believing the lies my brain tells me when I start defining myself by the “shoulds” that others expect of me. My self-esteem takes a blow to the head. Self-doubt sets in. Everything in my mind becomes that much harder.

However, like other “four letter words,” the word should is not a terrible word by itself. It’s when used to see and define yourself through the eyes of other people, it becomes harmful.

So hard as it is, when I find myself caught in the cycle of should statements, I do my best to take the word out of my vocabulary and look closer at what I tell myself.

I try to focus on internal expectations, rather than external.

What really matters to me? What do I value? What are my dreams? Are the choices I’m making making me happy? Improving who I am as a person? Allowing me to follow my dreams?

Finding the true answers to those questions is what has given me the ability to take the next step to stop believing the lies I tell myself.

Challenging negative thoughts

In addition to “should statements,” there are a variety of maladaptive thought types that invade my mind.

  • All-or-nothing thinking
  • Overgeneralization
  • Mental filter
  • Discounting the positive
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Magnification
  • Emotional reasoning
  • Labeling

Medication for my disorders can only help so much. They stabilize me. But they don’t fix me. Therapy is the key to helping me find solutions to the mess that is my brain. And cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches a lot of tricks in how to challenge my thinking.

These tools have been essential in building the self-awareness I am so proud of having attained. But they aren’t always enough when the lies I’m telling myself are so overwhelming I lose myself in them and find it impossible to accept the truths I know exist.

I describe it as feeling like I am trapped within a dome made of a thick glass. I can see the truth on the other side, but there is no door for me to exit through in order to reach them.

Throwing myself at the glass does nothing. It’s too strong. What do I do?

I figured out that the solution is as simple as imagining a small rock in my hand.

A single thrown rock can create a small crack in the glass. May not feel like much, but suddenly there is a tiny truth being let through. A tiny lie being sucked away.

So I imagine picking up and throwing another rock. Another crack appears. Then another. And another.

This helps because when I can’t see the whole problem I have to focus on the individual details. And then break those down into smaller pieces if the individual details still feel like too much.

Using rocks as a metaphor, I chip away at the lies incrementally one by one. It then becomes possible to use the tools learned in therapy to challenge those lies and replace them with the truth.

This process is long and is exhausting. It sometimes feels like I am getting nowhere. Depression is like that. But eventually, that glass dome will shatter. And I feel like I can finally breathe again.

Weak. A burden. Selfish. Irresponsible. A failure. Alone. Worthless. Crazy.

I am none of those things. They’re just lies I tell myself.

Published by loribarett

Coffee addicted charismatic geek with a penchant for tattoos, books, and listening to people tell their stories.

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